“Apartments don’t kill people. People kill people.” If only there were more howlers of that caliber in “Apartment 1303,” this truly vacant thriller might have clawed its way into so-bad-it’s-good territory. As it is, your monthly rent is probably scarier than what writer-director Michael Taverna has cooked up in this inept and derivative tale of a Detroit flat that mysteriously drives its tenants to suicide. With “The Conjuring” still in theaters and “The Tenant,” “The Shining,” “The 4th Floor,” “1408” and countless other real-estate chillers still in circulation, only the least discriminating genre aficionados and Mischa Barton fans need bother checking out this VOD time-waster in theaters; it’s being released in a stereoscopic version called “Apartment 1303 3D,” adding a clunker of a title to the pic’s list of reasons not to exist.
Taverna’s film is a Detroit-set remake of a 2007 Japanese horror-thriller with the same title, also adapted from a novel by “Ju-on” author Kei Oishi. Desperate to escape the clutches of her mother (poor Rebecca De Mornay), a once-successful recording artist turned kvetchy alcoholic, guileless Janet (Julianne Michelle) decides to move out, and swiftly finds a spacious, affordable apartment with a gorgeous view.
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But on her first night living on her own, Janet finds herself terrorized by weird noises and eerie silhouettes, and prone to visions of a young girl who may be the ghost of the apartment’s previous tenant. Even more disturbing, she develops a strange habit of stating the obvious aloud to herself. “Ugh, this apartment’s freaking me out!” she says at one point, lest anyone fail to grasp her freaked-out condition. We certainly don’t share it, as Taverna evinces no talent for building tension within the frame or even delivering a good, cheap jolt, no matter how often he trots out a creepy building superintendent or raises the soundtrack to an ominous pitch.
Eventually it falls to Janet’s b.f. (Corey Sevier) and her sister (Barton) to figure out what’s going on. Given the similarity between this setup and the sister-b.f. dynamic in “Psycho,” as well as the presence of a boo-in-the-shower scene and a decidedly malevolent mother figure, one might be tempted to read “Apartment 1303” as an extremely low-rent, indifferently acted homage to Hitchcock’s classic. But really, it’s for the birds.